For around the first 100 years of their existence professional footballers were treated much like workers in other industries. The employers held most of the cards and players received a rough deal. They had barely adequate pay, lacked influence and no real freedom of movement.
Dickensian football club chairmen treated sportsmen like servants, simply indefensibly. The present anarchy is just as indefensible.
It is now 50 years since the maximum weekly wage for footballers was set at £20. This was £5 more than the then average industrial weekly wage. How things have changed! The boot is well and truly on the other foot, player power is the only power.
Normally a contract is a binding agreement between two parties for performing a specified act in exchange for payment. There is nothing binding about a footballer’s contract. It’s a meaningless piece of paper. The only purpose it serves in practice is to increase the transfer fee when the player, ably supported by his agent, decides to break the contract.
Players’ rights are infinite. If they wish they can insist on sticking to the letter and length of their contract being respected. We’ve had multi-millionaire players who prefer to sit on the bench for years and collect a fortune rather than be transferred. Others choose to see out their contract and leave to stuff their already full pockets ‘on a Bosman’.
If a player decides to break his contract and move on – to play in Europe, to the club of his dreams, to experience football in another country, to be closer to his family, to be in a more pleasant city or whatever — the Club can nothing other than sell the player. Some of these may be legitimate reasons but usually they are pure nonsense, a transparent excuse for wanting even more money.
So why the surprise because one of the very best players in the world wants to leave the club that was Europe’s most successful last season? Despite Ferguson’s understandable protestations and threats, Ronaldo will have his way. Like all of his star professional colleagues he is a mercenary pure and simple. Concepts like loyalty and respecting legal obligations cut no ice.
The harsh reality is that fans need to come to terms with the fact that we support players primarily motivated by monetary gain and who don’t give a toss for the badge on the shirt.
Written by Tony Schneider, originally published at 4sportsake.com.